Jay’s on Third is not your typical seaside restaurant. If you visit the New Jersey shore during the summer, you can find several places with seafood or pasta dishes. While the menus list decent options, typically, the creations lack originality.
Now in its 11th year, Jay’s offers something else; seasonally inspired food that is not typical in any way. Chef Jason Hippen has prepared food in some of the chicest restaurants from coast to coast.
Before he opened his restaurant in Stone Harbor, he worked with the “Who’s Who” in the culinary world and traveled extensively to gain inspiration. His Thai heritage inspires him to prepare food with Asian influences, but his passion for travel leads him to create dishes with international flavors as well.
In 2017, Jay was awarded the prestigious Prix Au Chef De L’Avenir (Chef of the Future) by The International Academy of Gastronomy and is only one of four chefs in the United States to hold this honor. Jay’s casual but upscale BYOB restaurant has so many tempting options, you might need to bring a bigger party of friends who are all willing to share.
Location: Jay’s on Third – 9836 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Website here.
Menu: The menu takes diners on a trip around the world, with flavor combinations so unusual your head will swirl. The first courses include grilled octopus over Sardinian pasta with ras el haout and chickpeas or crispy sweet tempura shrimp with sunomono vegetables and amazu ponzu.
For second courses, Jay’s offers a steamed catch with jade pesto and baby bok choy or local scallops with corn risotto and yuzu marinated peaches. For meat lovers, there are several choices, including a 14-oz Angus rib eye with fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms, and red-wine ancho glaze or a 12-oz bone-in pork chop served with ancient grains, pistachio, Brussels sprouts and bacon jam. The combinations are unique and distinctive.
Thoughts: When you first enter Jay’s, you will notice that the dining room is small. You realize why a table here remains coveted. You must make a reservation, or you will have to eat elsewhere. The staff is professional, and even though people are clamoring to get in, they welcome you warmly, one group at a time. It is this efficiency that starts your evening off properly. Next, our server greeted us warmly, offered to chill our wine and procure the correct glasses for the table. She left us to review a menu that had us swooning.
After her genuine welcome, she kicked off our dining experience with a list of specials that topped the tantalizing menu. Finding it hard to choose, I asked for some help to narrow down a choice. I appreciate when the staff knows how to describe a dish and discern what a diner might desire by asking questions to help guide selections. Since I am the type of patron that likes to taste many dishes, I often find friends who love to do the same. We discussed our combined desires on what to order.
We opted for three different starters to share. The first was the Brusselini. The plate mixed roasted Brussels sprouts, broccolini, sun-dried cherries, and sunflower seeds topped off with a blue cheese vinaigrette. To say the flavors were addictive would be accurate. The roasted vegetables were smoky, and the dried cherries paired beautifully with the tang of the blue cheese and acid of the vinaigrette.
We also tried the shrimp tempura, which was crisp and delicate. The amazu ponzu dipping sauce gave the shrimp a citrus zing that enhanced the flavor. And lastly, we all shared one of the specials that evening, scallop mousse stuffed in zucchini blossoms. The blossoms were lightly battered, fried, and served on top of a sweet corn puree.
The scallop mousse was sweet and fresh, and when paired with the tender-crisp zucchini blossom, the appetizer was both soft and crunchy. It blew us away.
I am a meat-eater, so for dinner, I chose the 12-oz bone-in pork chop served with ancient grains, Brussels sprouts, bacon jam, market chutney, and green peppercorn pork jus. While the ingredient list seems long, the flavor combinations were incredible together. The richness of the pork, pork jus and bacon jam took the dish to a flavor level that was earthy, spicy, and sugared simultaneously. I haven’t tasted anything like this pork dish anywhere — the addition of the ancient grains made for a comfort food plate that was a home run.
My companions ordered the Pad Thai that is always on the menu, one as a chicken version and one as a vegetarian version. We learned from our server that the noodle dish is Jay’s mother’s recipe. He prepares the rice noodles mixed with fish sauce, bean sprouts, egg, peanuts, lime, and cilantro perfectly rivaling any great Thai restaurant’s version.
There are lovely dessert selections such as a classic budino, vanilla cheesecake, or green tea beignets with white chocolate dip, but we chose Jay’s version of the “Devil Dog” to share. The chocolate sponge cake filled with milk chocolate mousse and then topped with pistachios and expresso ganache was decadent. Alongside the dog is a serving of chocolate chip ice cream. The moist cake and the combination of the other additions were a million times better than my childhood obsession. Jay’s food is surprising, and his interpretation of each plate reminds us why we choose to eat out in the first place.
Price: Starters like the tempura shrimp are $14, but other small plates range from $11-19. Entrees range from $30-40, and desserts are $9-11.